My first trip to a “soup kitchen”.

Other than it’s obviously a church, there were no signs to let anyone know there’s a lunch program, nor is there any way to know where to enter the church. Luckily I found an open door and a kindly gentleman who directed me downstairs. The only sign I saw was “Men’s Room Closed”.

Entering a large auditorium-like room, there was a serving area at one end, folding tables and chairs throughout the centre of the room, and a very long line of people all around the perimeter of the room, obviously the line-up waiting to be served. This being my very first visit to a “soup kitchen” in my sixty years on the planet,  I came with many preconceived ideas of the types of people I expected to be lining up for a free meal. I certainly knew why I was here. Pretty Simple. I had no food and no
money. I expected everyone else in line would be in a similar situation. Some of those in line bore the obvious signs of poverty and living on the street. They had all their worldly possessions stuffed into well-worn backpacks.  They didn’t smell very good and personal hygiene had not been a priority for them for quite a while. This I expected, but the others?

There were young people, wearing the latest fashions and talking on their iPhones. There were neatly attired business people, quite obviously on their lunch break, skipping their usual two-martini lunch, taking advantage of a free meal meant for the disadvantaged in our society. There were well-coiffed women, with perfect hair and perfect nails. The most outrageous? People carrying designer shopping bags full of their recent purchases. They can afford to shop, but not to eat?

None of these leeches probably have a single pang of guilt at what they are doing. That the wonderful, kind, generous folks working so hard to prepare and serve these meals don’t even raise an eyebrow at these people who clearly don’t need it, is a tribute to their kind spirit. I should mention that all of the volunteers are well over sixty. Says a lot about our society. Where are the younger ones volunteering to give back? Probably out shopping or at the beach.

None of this detracted from the delicious meal I was so fortunate to enjoy – choice of hot, tasty soup, egg or tuna sandwiches, along with a treat, Timbits or half a do-nut. And endless coffee, tea and water.

For some this may well be their only meal of the day. It would be nice if some caring grocery chain would donate things like fruit, juice and milk. As nourishing as the meal was, it doesn’t exactly cover the four food groups.

London is a tough town to find work in. Even though I have a lifetime of experience to offer, not one person has responded to the hundreds of resumes I’ve submitted.
I am not on assistance by choice, because it does not possibly provide enough to survive on, especially when housing here is so expensive. I just want desperately to work.

If you are a local grocer and have anything to donate please contact the kind folks at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

If you are one of those otherwise well-off people standing in line for a free meal, think twice about who the meal is meant for and don’t abuse the generosity of these kind people who give their time willingly to lend a much-needed helping hand to those of us who really need it.

If you want an all too vivid snapshot of the London economy, drop by the Ontario Works office some afternoon. It’s beyond crazy and the system is overwhelmed. Did you know that there are over a hundred case workers at this office? Apparently there are some eight thousand people on assistance in London. And news reports
that our economy is on the rebound certainly don’t apply to London.

Look around your city. You’ll see trash everywhere. Thousands of cigarette butts. Graffiti all over town. Weeds everywhere. Broken public washrooms. The City is already paying for people on assistance. Why not put able bodied people to work for living wages, cleaning up our City and getting these people off welfare? London is not exactly a tourism hub and does a poor job of attracting new business to the City. Maybe the Forest City would do better as the Clean City?

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The walls are closing in on me.

No idea why I keep blogging about all this. No one cares. That’s obvious. I guess it some perverse idea that I don’t want to just keel over from not having my meds and no one knows why. If it happens, I am reminded of that wise old saying about how much you’ll be missed. It reads "put your hand in a bucket of water and then remove it and see how much you have affected it." Yes, a brief ripple and then no one knows you were ever there. Fitting.

My world is crashing in on me. I had applied for welfare to at least get me my meds before it’s too late, but they are jerking me around. I had hoped that I would hear something today because they knew how critical it was, but, when I finally managed to contact my worker, she said she had sent me a letter! A letter? How urgent is that? Typical government worker. Not a clue about the real world.

Tonight is my last meal, literally, as that is all the food I have left. I can’t go to the food bank because I don’t have my authorization from welfare. The food bank only gives you a pathetic three days of lousy food anyway, so I have no idea how you are expected to live on that. My landlady, for whom I did about forty hours of tough work on her house for with little thanks and certainly no break on the rent, now wants me to go and stay at the men’s Mission. I’ve missed two payments on my car, so I guess it might be a good idea to sleep in it somewhere else so they can’t grab it from me, knowing my address.

Thanks to the disasters of the last few years I have nothing much left to sell. I’ve put my blades and my pool cue on Kijiji. I’ve been holding off putting my bike on because I might need it, but now my landlady might scoop it for rent. Other than clothes nobody wants, all I have is my computer and printer and they’re not worth a whole lot. I see selling them as completely giving up, which I’m close to today. I have about fifteen dollars to my name and, without welfare, I won’t survive. No meds is suicidal enough. Not eating on top of that for a diabetic is completely insane. At this point I would welcome the end of all this stress though.

There is so much I wanted to accomplish still. I hoped to one day be reunited with my kids, who I miss desperately each and every day. If they somehow find out that I am gone I wonder if it will mean anything to them after all these years? I was so hopeful when my son and I reconnected in 2007, but he just as quickly disappeared and I haven’t spoken to him since. I can’t even find Danielle, his daughter, who chatted with me often, but who has now also disappeared. 

I have been compiling a list of the joyous moments of my life. Not sure why. I guess maybe to believe that my life has not been a waste. No matter what the memory or who was part of it I found that all it did was make me angry that those people are not in my life, or helping me now when I helped them so much in the past. Even thinking about the kids gets me upset because I know I did nothing wrong. My kids knew I was stuck in a horrible marriage and they were the ones who encouraged me to move out West to start over. There was never any talk of them then abandoning me or my entire side of the family. I tried for years to connect with them, even driving down from BC to Ontario in the depths of the winter to see my daughter, who they hid away from me. It was all so cruel. Why do people do that to others? I figured that when my kids were adults they would come to their senses and contact us again, but that never happened. Both my father and mother passed away without ever hearing from their grand-kids again. Unbelievably sad and so undeserved.

No idea what will happen if I don’t get my drug card tomorrow. I guess without food it will all be academic anyway.

 

Diary of a Diabetic

Had to happen. After a sleepless night Thursday because my feet were cramping up so bad, I knew I had to see my doctor. He phoned the pharmacy to order emergency meds for me, then gave me money out of his own pocket to pay for them. He’s such a great guy! When he tested my sugar, which came back at a whopping 24.5, he said I needed to go straight to emergency, which I did. Took hours, but they watched me while my sugars came down slowly and they gave me enough Metphormin to make it through the weekend. Going without my meds has been stupid, but I’ve had no choice. God, how I wish I could find a job, any job!

Desperation sets in

Not much left to say. I am on hold on the phone right now to Welfare, to beg them to give me some meds before I collapse. It’s been six weeks now and that is taking its toll on me. Add this deplorable heat to being without meds and the days and nights are not pleasant. My landlady, although surprisingly understanding about not paying the rent last week, refuses to leave the air on to cool down my sweltering loft, so I just sit and sweat and can’t sleep. I have no money for food, so my diet has tanked. I am so dehydrated all I do is drink water and pee, and it keeps me up all night. I have filled out an unbelievable number of job applications, at least a hundred over the last few days, with not one response. It’s so discouraging! I would kill to be back out West. I have so many wonderful memories of great friends there. I have no one to care here. I wish I could close my eyes, click my heels and wake up in the Okanagan.